Talented trio are accelerating Les Essonniennes‘ rapid rise to the Champions League, writes Martin Whiteley.
Fleury 91 may have only been in the top flight for five years but Poland trio Dominika Grabowska, Ewelina Kamczyk and Nikola Karczewska have put the club on the fast track to the Champions League.
Just two years after their maiden season, Les Essonniennes managed their highest league finish of seventh place in the Division 1 Feminine during the 2019/20 campaign and now with a couple more years of experience under their belts, the club’s sights are set on an even bigger achievement.
Despite a disappointing 4-0 defeat at home to second-placed PSG at the weekend, Fleury have made significant progress in a short space of time. They remain in contention to secure a coveted European spot on 28 points — six behind Paris FC, who beat Guingamp 5-2, in third place.
Three crucial cogs in the side’s rapid development have come in the shape of Poland stars Grabowska, Kamczyk, and Karczewska.
Pruszkow-born Grabowska was the first of the trio to arrive when the ambitious young midfielder signed on an initial one-year deal from Gornik Leczna last season. Before even stepping onto the pitch she showed she had a winning mentality after telling the club’s website that she believed Fleury could challenge to become a top-five side.
At the time she said: “I’m a young player, so I have to gain experience and the French championship is at a very high level. It is important for me as a career choice. My goal will be to spend a lot of minutes on the pitch and help the team achieve their goals. I think we can fight to be among the top five French teams.”Embed from Getty Images
Having grown up playing and training with boys, 23-year-old Grabowska is well accustomed to the physical side of the game. Over time she has gone on to show that she has a strong character and is persistent in pursuing the goals she sets herself.
At the end of May 2021, Fleury were delighted when Grabowska signed a new deal and was joined at the club by a couple more familiar faces later in the summer.
Next to put pen to paper was Kamczyk. Playing as an attacking midfielder she had led the Ekstraliga Kobiet scoring charts for the previous five years. Technically sound, manager Fabrice Abriel has featured the reliable Wodzislaw Slaski-born star in all 15 Division 1 Feminine games for Fleury this season.
Although yet to score in the league, the former Gornik Leczna star hit a hat-trick in last month’s impressive 4-1 Coupe de France Feminine triumph at Strasbourg. Fleury will be hoping the 26-year-old’s on target again in their bid to do a cup and league double over Paris FC, who they face in the quarter-finals on Saturday and then again next Friday as the battle for Europe heats up.
Like many players who join a new club, their roles can change early on. Kamczyk has played as a wide player in either a three or a four, as well as being used as an impact player off the bench.
That familiar path from Gornik Leczna to Fleury was travelled once again when striker Karczewska joined the ranks. Positioned in the centre of the attack, the 22-year-old is used as a hold-up player who brings her team-mates into play. Her second job is then to get onto the end of their return balls and put them in the net.
Top scorer Karczewska, who is leading the club charts with seven goals, has executed both roles perfectly and her firepower could give Les Essonniennes the edge during the run-in.
Clubs like Fleury don’t have the funds to recruit the cream of the crop. If they can, however, piece together a squad that links well and functions as one unit they can take the club to new heights.
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